Night of the Creeps (1986)


Night of the Creeps (1986) starts strong. In glorious black and white, an alien (“that experiment”) escapes its spaceship and crashes on Earth near “Sorority Row,” circa 1959. At a nearby make-out spot, Johnny (Ken Heron) and Pam (Alice Cadogan) witness the crash and investigate. Meanwhile, the radio reports that a criminally insane man has escaped, heading toward Corman University (purposefully named, I’m sure) on Route 66. As the pod breaks and something flies into Johnny’s mouth, an axe swings behind Pam.

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Cut to “Pledge Week” 1986 and the beginning of a downhill descent for Night of the Creeps. The tone changes, emphasizing the “comedy” in this “horror/comedy.” While the alien storyline in the main highway through the movie, the axe murderer storyline is a side road. It turns out that the rookie cop from 1959 is a veteran detective in 1986. He discovered Pam’s body and witnessed events in the past that start happening again in the present. His experience helps him believe the wild reports of Chris (Jason Lively) and Cynthia (Jill Whitlow.)

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This eliminates the typical plot point of nobody believing “those crazy kids” and results in the heart of the story beating inside the detective, Ray Cameron, played by Tom Atkins. It’s an erratic heartbeat, though. Understandably, he’s haunted by the past. But, when he encounters a reanimated axe murderer, he becomes suicidal. When Chris knocks on his door to tell him his friend, J.C. (Steve Marshall), has become a victim, Ray turns off the gas and shuts the oven door.

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This almost-desperate act helps justify the ending, I suppose. I don’t mind that the screenplay by Fred Dekker, who also directed, is sometimes very dark. However, it’s those supposedly funny parts that don’t align. In this case, the chocolate and peanut butter don’t taste so great together. There is some witty humor, such as characters saying how this or that gives them “the creeps” and J.C. saying, “I’d rather have my brain invaded by aliens from outer space than pledge (a fraternity.”) Conversely, the physical humor just doesn’t work for me.

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There’s almost too much happening in Night of the Creeps. Maybe it didn’t need aliens, axe murders, and zombies. Maybe it needed to pick a tone and stick with it. Then again, I know this is a “cult classic.” It arrived during a pocket of time that I didn’t appreciate films like this and The Monster Squad (1987.) They were a little too immature for someone just out of college and not up to par with the classics from just a few years earlier, like Poltergeist or The Thing. It’s just never grown on me, as much as I’d like to like it.

Written by Fred Dekker

Directed by Fred Dekker

Starring Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Tom Atkins, Allan Kayser, Ken Heron, Alice Cadogan, David Paymer

RT 88 min.

Released Aug. 22, 1986

Recorded on May 30, 2020 on TCM

Rating 6 Hockey Mask Killers (out of 10)

This review is part of the annual Countdown to Halloween. I invite you to join me as I attempt to gain some space on my DVR. Every day, I'll be watching something from the bottom of the list, thereby reducing the percentage that's full... so I can record more!


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